World weather.

Thursday 15th December, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Maria's jealous that I'm getting all the attention, and that I don't write enough about her in this journal. So in the name of healthy relations during the rest of our holiday and perhaps beyond I hereby dedicate this page to mi carino, mi dulce, mi amor and I hope you enjoy these photos.

But wait! I'm getting ahead of myself. It's true that we didn't do much today. We deliberately scheduled today as a chill out day; some swimming and relaxing back at Calypso, a little exploring in our neat little rental car, and a chance for me to catch up with my way overdue journal updates.

But do we have a story to tell about last night! Do you see the photo of Maria above? That was taken outside one of Cairns' most highly awarded restaurants- and unarguably the most unique dining experience in town, the Red Ochre Grill. While Maria and I were out window shopping, we stopped to look at the menu and couldn't help but reserve a table for later that evening. I was surprised to be asked which table we would like, and kind of suspected that we were in for something really special. My only set of good clothes were dragged from the bottom of my daypack, and after much encouragement, Maria ironed them for me while I finished my work on the computer. This was going to be a dinner worth dressing up for.

But I couldn't have even imagined...

First came the wine list, and although I'm no conossieur, there were a number of wines that I recognized as being highly regarded in the industry. Maria chose a Semillon Sauvignon Blanc which was exactly to her taste, and I went for the safe bet, a nice cold oaky Chardonnay. Ordering the food was easy; Red Ochre Grill does a meal called the "Taste of Australia", a multi-course feast of all the best that our great southern land has to offer. For starters, we were brought a freshly baked loaf of wholemeal damper (traditional Australian bread), accompanied by a dipping bowl of peanut oil and a small plate of dukka to roll it in. The dukka in this case was a mix of crushed macadamia nuts and Australian herbs and spices.

After that, two large plates were brought to our table. The first was a medley of strips of crocodile, and fat, fat juicy prawns, with a side serve of pickles with lemon aspen sambal. The prawns and crocodile seemed to be dipped in some sort of light-as-air tempura batter and fried, but I'm not sure. Either way, they were mouth watering. I don't even usually like prawns, but I guarantee you that I ate my share this time. And the strips of crocodile? Divine! On the other plate, was a selection of five different Australian-influenced dishes; tasty little crocodile wontons, a bowl of emu pate, slices of smoked kangaroo with horseradish, morsels of raw swordfish with pickled ginger, and small omelettes rolled with pesto, sundried capsicum and rocket. What a banquet!

Funny thing is that after finishing our platter of mixed native Australian fauna, I had forgotten that the main course was yet to come. Out came a large plate piled with slabs of grilled kangaroo sirloin, a stack of emu fillets accompanied by slices of proscuitto and a riberry glaze, a generously proportioned sweet potato fritter and some whole steamed bok choy. This was really the Red Ochre's crowning glory. Kangaroo meat is delicious if prepared and cooked properly, but the wafer thin slices that had made up part of the first course were a little too well done for my liking, and lacked the wild flavour that separates kangaroo fom beef. But these inch thick strips of roo were perfect. Medium rare, tender but not bloody. Tastier than any beef you would ever eat, and with less cholesterol and more vitamins. The smaller emu steaks had a strong, gamey flavour and an unusually appealing saltiness, but we both agreed that the kangaroo was the better of the two meats.

We certainly weren't in any way hungry by the time we had battled our way through Australia's national emblem, yet we both eagerly awaited dessert. Sweet, rich wattleseed pavlova served with a scoop of refreshing berry (or plum apparently) sorbet, macadamia toast and a giant strawberry filled with fresh whipped cream. What a perfect end to a perfect dining experience! Out of ten, I give Red Ochre Grill's 'Taste Of Australia' ... eleven and a half!

The restaurant where we had dinner last night, The Red Ochre Grill, specialises in traditional Australian food. So if anybody out there wants to experience the taste of real Australian food and have had enough BBQs to last a life time, this is the place to go.

By ordering the Taste of Australia platter you will make sure you savour a bit of everything Australia has to offer, from crocodile to kangaroo, from emu to swordfish. Also the sauces that accompany each dish are made with fruits and berries found in the bush. It is worth mentioning the extensive Australian wine list, ranging from the modest white wines to the most expensive reds, without forgetting sparkling and dessert wines.

The chef makes sure everything you are being serve is very well presented, attractive to the eye of the customer. He chooses not only the right flavours but also the right colours to ensure that eating at The Red Ochre is an experience difficult to forget.